1888 Shipwreck Found in SF Bay

Collision stirred anti-Chinese sentiment
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2014 1:19 AM CDT
1888 Shipwreck Found in SF Bay
Fishermen converge on a pier near the site of a shipwreck discovery in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The wreck of a passenger steamer that went down in 1888 with the loss of 16 lives has been found sitting upright on the bed of San Francisco Bay not far from the Golden Gate Bridge. In one of the city's worst maritime disasters, a steamer named the City of Chester departed for Eureka on a foggy day, only to be hit by a much larger steamer arriving from Hong Kong with Chinese passengers aboard. The wreck was found by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers using a sonar system; the agency's forerunner originally thought it had found the ship's remains just a month after the sinking, the Washington Post reports, but now the location has been confirmed.

The wreck is at a depth of 217 feet and it won't be raised, but a nearby museum exhibition will tell the story of the ship's sinking, which happened at a time of widespread anti-Chinese racism. "When this happened, it happened in an atmosphere in which the population was dead set against the Chinese," the director of NOAA's maritime heritage program tells the San Francisco Chronicle. "They accused the Chinese of standing there impassively and watching these white people drown." It later emerged, however, that Chinese sailors had heroically dived into the water to rescue passengers from the other ship. "What this shipwreck reminds us of is that you don't need to make assumptions based on color, language, religion, or nationality," the NOAA director says. (Another fascinating recent find: Researchers traveling by horseback in Argentina discovered pieces of a 1765 shipwreck.)

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